Guest blogger this week is my daughter, Carly Boudreau. The holidays are tough for many. Today she talked to me about what she wished us neuro-typicals could understand as she and her friends try to cope with shifting chemistry and suicidal ideation. I invited her to share an insider’s perspective:
“I keep thinking I could just drive myself off the road.”
My good friend came to me with this sentiment not even a week ago, confiding several other things along the way.
“I feel like my friends don’t really want me. I feel like I don’t matter. It’s been a hard week.”
Responding to Depression
I know, I know. What a depressing train of thought! But that’s why it’s called depression.
It’s scary when a loved one, especially a loved one with a history of depression or suicidal tendencies, comes to you with this idea. There’s a whole host of things flying through your own brain in response.
“Of course you matter! Aren’t I doing enough to show that at least I care about you?” And of course, “Dying won’t solve anything! Please don’t kill yourself!” It’s tempting to voice all of those thoughts.
Ideation vs. Intent
But as someone who struggles with depression myself, please remember that ideation is different than intent. Intent has a plan and an immediate threat, ideation does not. If we can't talk about ideation without fear, we certainly won't feel safe coming out about intent.
It’s important for us to be able to talk about our feelings of ideation.
When that train is running, it runs on a circular track. It’s hard to derail a train of thought when there’s nothing for us to switch to, and we dig ourselves deeper into that same rut.
Please remember that ideation is different than intent. Intent has a plan and an immediate threat, ideation does not.
Give Room To Express Without Overreacting
Imagine if every time you tried to express you were feeling bleak everyone around you started crying, shouting, telling you not to die, and trying to take you to hospitals. You’d never want to share again, much less when it was really serious!
If you are really concerned, however, it is okay to ask “are you safe?”
It’s isolating, and it makes us feel guilty for having these feelings in the first place.
Mentioning wanting to die is not automatically an admission of being suicidal, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.
If you are really concerned, however, it is okay to ask “are you safe?” Just give us the opportunity to answer “yes” and prompt us to continue.
Listen to and care about that struggle. If you get the opportunity, the best thing I know how to do for my friends is remind them of a simple fact: We don’t actually want to die. Ideation is not intent. Ideation is the formation of an idea and the process of putting it on a pedestal.
You Have the Power to Isolate or Put Back on Track
After all, we don’t want to die, we just want to stop being in pain. We don’t want to die, we want to live a better life. It’s just very hard to frame it that way by ourselves.
Our being allowed to talk about these things candidly, without fear of repercussion, is your opportunity to speak light into a bleak mindset.
You are the one with either the power to isolate, or the power to redirect that track and put us back on the path we were looking for.